TV Linked with Alzheimer's / Cognitive Decline

"What about cognitive functions? Is there any evidence that ordinary daily activities benefit the mind? Georgia Tech neuroscientists surveyed the activity levels of several hundred older adults and then gave them a battery of aptitude tests. The more active individuals had higher mental ability scores. Highly active Icelandic women and men in their mid-70s were much stronger on tests of processing speed, memory and executive functions than their sedentary contemporaries. Even more interesting was that those elders who spent the most time watching TV had lower mental ability scores."  -  Psychology Today (Jan 2012)

"Engaging in a hobby like reading a book, making a patchwork quilt or even playing computer games can delay the onset of dementia, a US study suggests. Watching TV however does not count - and indeed spending significant periods of time in front of the box may speed up memory loss, researchers found." - BBC  ( Feb 2009)  and  Medical News Today  (Feb 2009)  and  MedPage Today  (Feb 2009)

In this study, scientists compared a group of Alzheimer's patients with a matched group of elderly people.  They specifically looked at the hobbies and activities (26 types) that each group had engaged in.

According to Dr. Robert Friedland "...watching TV was the only recreational activity, out of those studied, that Alzheimer's sufferers were more likely to participate in. " BBC (March 2001) 

Effects of TV on Cognition

"Angeline Lillard and Jennifer Peterson, both of the University of Virginia's department of psychology, wanted to see whether watching fast-paced television had an immediate influence on kids' executive function -- skills including attention, working memory, problem solving and delay of gratification that are associated with success in school. Television's negative effect on executive function over the long term has been established, the researchers wrote Monday in the journal Pediatrics, but less is known about its immediate effects. To test what those might be, Lillard and Peterson randomly assigned 60 4-year-olds to three groups: one that watched nine minutes of a fast-paced, "very popular fantastical cartoon about an animated sponge that lives under the sea;" one that watched nine minutes of slower-paced programming from a PBS show "about a typical U.S. preschool-aged boy;" and a third group that was asked to draw for nine minutes with markers and crayons. Immediately after their viewing and drawing tasks were complete, the kids were asked to perform four tests to assess executive function.  Unfortunately for the denizens of Bikini Bottom, the kids who watched nine minutes of the frenetic high jinks of the "animated sponge" scored significantly worse than the other kids." -  Los Angeles Times (Sept 2011)  and  Pediatrics (Sept 2011)  and Medical News Today (Sept 2011)  and  USA Today (Sept 2011)  and  Science Daily (Sept 2011)  and  Mail Online (Sept 2011)  and  PsychCentral (Sept 2011)  and  Earth Sky (Sept 2011)  and  Obesity Panacea (Sept 2011)  and  The New York Times (Sept 2011)  and  San Francisco Chronicle (Sept 2011)  and  Psypost (Sept 2011)  and (Sept 2011)  and  Psychology Today (Sept 2011)  and  Live Science (Sept 2011)  and  US News Health (Sept 2011)  and  MedPage Today (Sept 2011)

"Middle-class 6-year-olds matched for sex, age, pretest WPPSI IQ, and TV-viewing time were blindly assigned to a restricted TV-viewing group or an unrestricted group. Restricted parents halved subjects' previous TV-viewing rates and interacted 20 min./day with subjects for a 6-week period. Unrestricted TV parents provided similar interactions but did not limit viewing. Results tentatively suggest that TV restriction enhanced Performance IQ, reading time, and reflective Matching Familiar Figures scores." - Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (Winter 1980)

"Subsequent work by Malach and colleagues has found that, when we're engaged in intense "sensorimotor processing" - and nothing is more intense than staring at a massive screen with Dolby surround sound while wearing 3-D glasses - we actually inhibit these prefrontal areas. The scientists argue that such "inactivation" allows us to lose ourself in the movie" - Frontal Cortex (Jan 2010)

"There was greater frontal lobe activation in children when they were engaged in a picture book reading task with their mothers, as opposed to passive viewing of a videotape in which the story was read to them. Social and verbal engagement of the mother in reading picture books with her young child may mediate frontal brain activity in the child." -  Pubmed (Oct 2009) 

Physical Health, TV  and Alzheimer's

The link between diabetes and Alzheimer's:

"A Surprising Link Between Diabetes and Alzheimer's" - The New York Times (Feb 2009)

"Diabetics have a significantly greater risk of dementia, both Alzheimer's disease the most common form of dementia and other dementia, reveals important new data from an ongoing study of twins. The risk of dementia is especially strong if the onset of diabetes occurs in middle age, according to the study." - Science Daily (Jan 2009)

"Diabetic individuals have a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease" - Science Daily (May 2008)

And Diabetes is also linked to television watching:

"Too much TV ups the risk of type 2 diabetes in women" - Prevention (Oct 2004)

Risk for Type 2 Diabetes... "Children who reported watching TV/playing video games 2 or more hours/day were 73% more likely to be at risk." - Journal of School Health (2006)

"Diabetic children who spent the most time glued to the TV had a tougher time controlling their blood sugar, according to a Norwegian study that illustrates yet another downside of too much television." - CBS News (May 2007)

Also, TV is associated with Obesity, and Obesity is associated with Diabetes:

The Role of Media is Childhood Obesity - Overview of the Research - Kaiser (Feb 2004)

"Adults who watch more than 21 hours of TV a week were 80 per cent more likely to be obese than people who watched five hours or less television." - CTV News (June 2008)

"How much TV children watch accurately predicts whether they will go on to become overweight, a study suggests." - BBC (Sept 2005)

See also: Obesity & TV

TV is associated with Obesity, and Obesity is also associated with Alzheimer's:

"The link between obesity and the subsequent development of dementia later in life is well documented in the medical literature.  A new study suggests that being just overweight instead of obese in midlife can increase the risk of subsequently developing several types of dementia."  - (May 2011)

An Active Lifestyle, Good Diet Helps Prevent Alzheimer's

"Older women who did an hour or two of strength training exercises each week had improved cognitive function a year later, scoring higher on tests of the brain processes responsible for planning and executing tasks, a new study has found." - The New York Times (Jan 2010)

"For older people in particular, even a moderate program of exercise can boost brain health and cognition."  -  Psychology Today (May 2004)

"Evidence that diet plays a major role in causing Alzheimer's disease was released yesterday after scientists found that African Americans were more than twice as likely to suffer from the condition as people of similar age in Nigeria." - Guardian (Feb 2001)

Cognitive Stimulation and Alzheimer's

"New research suggests that reading books, writing and participating in brain-stimulating activities at any age may preserve memory. The study is published in the July 3, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology." - Science Daily (July 2013)

"An excellent review has just been published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience on the relationship between enriched environments and the onset and severity of nervous system diseases. A consensus seems to be emerging: putting rodents in enriched environments - cages with space for foraging, toys and social interaction - not only delays disease but reduces the symptoms. The list of diseases for which this effect has been verified is staggering. It reads like a who's who of neural nightmares: Alzheimers, Huntington's, Parkinson's, epilepsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury, Fragile X syndrome and Down syndrome. One leading theory is that having more neuronal connections and dendritic spines simply means that you are able to lose more neurons before you notice the loss. Enriched environments, then, act like a buffer. While they don't prevent disease, they do slow the damage." - Frontal Cortex (Sept 2006)

"Among the most striking new evidence is a report published in a recent issue of Experimental Neurology showing that even in old age the cells of the cerebral cortex respond to an enriched environment by forging new connections to other cells." - The New York Times (July 1985)

"Engaging in a hobby like reading a book, making a patchwork quilt or even playing computer games can delay the onset of dementia, a US study suggests. Watching TV however does not count - and indeed spending significant periods of time in front of the box may speed up memory loss, researchers found." - BBC News (Feb 2009)

"The study found that for each additional year of formal education, the onset of memory loss was delayed by more than two months. The report, led by Charles B. Hall of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, appeared in the Oct. 23 issue of Neurology." - The New York Times (Nov 2007)

"While a higher level of education may help lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease, new research shows that once educated people start to become forgetful, a higher level of education does not appear to protect against how fast they will lose their memory." - Science Daily (Feb 2009)

(see Brainwaves & TV for more on how TV understimulates the brain)

Preventing Alzheimer’s

"Their research of behaviors of 2,235 men aged 45-59 in Caerphilly, South Wales identified physical activity as being integral to having the best chance of remaining disease-free and reducing the risk of dementia." - Psychology Today (Feb 2014)

"A special report on Alzheimer’s disease, a supplement to the October issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter, describes focus areas in prevention research. They include:

- Physical activity and healthy living

- Diet

- Drugs

- Mental Fitness  -  Science Daily (Oct 2008)

"In addition, few scientists believe brain health activities prevent dementia, only that they might delay it. The strongest evidence suggests that cardiovascular exercise also probably helps the brain, by improving blood circulation, experts say." - The New York Times (Dec 2006)

"...our findings suggest that having a calm and outgoing personality in combination with a socially active lifestyle may decrease the risk of developing dementia even further"  -  Science Daily (Jan 2009)

Delaying Alzheimer's

Can you delay dementia? - Tips from How Stuff Works

"The study found that for each additional year of formal education, the onset of memory loss was delayed by more than two months. The report, led by Charles B. Hall of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, appeared in the Oct. 23 issue of Neurology." - The New York Times (Nov 2007)

"The theater group improved significantly more compared to the control group in each of the measures" - Cognitive Daily (July 2009)

"You can teach an old dog new tricks, say UCLA scientists who found that middle-aged and older adults with little Internet experience were able to trigger key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning after just one week of surfing the Web." - (Oct 2009)

"A new study of people in their 60s and 70s has found that playing a strategy video game focused on conquering the world appears to improve some of the cognitive skills that naturally decline during aging." - The Dana Foundation (Feb 2009)

"Instead of TV" - As part of an active lifestyle...

Recommended Websites

Bowling Alone 

Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood

Ellen Currey Wilson The Big Turnoff 

 Herber Valley Unplugged

I’m Missing All Of My Shows 

Instead of TV 

Kill Your Television 

Media by Choice

Media Violence Resource Center

People Unplugged

Plato's Cave

Play Unplugged

Screen Free Project

Screen Free Week

Television vs Children 

The New Citizen

Trash Your TV

Turn Off That TV

TV Smarter - Blog 

TV Stinks 

Unplug Your Kids 

White Dot 

White Dot Forum 

Recommended Articles

"Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor"

University of Otago research - TV and Academic Achievement

University of Otago research - TV and Crime

Unplug Your Brain - by Jerry Mander

Why Turnoff Completely

The Dangers of TV

TV Promoting Guns

Television and Children (University of Michigan)

Strangers in Our Homes: TV and Our Children's Minds

Excerpted from Endangered Minds - Kids' Brains Must Be Different

How Background TV Undermines Well-Being

Electronic Screen Syndrome and the rise of mental disorders in children

1000 studies over 30 years

selling audiences to advertisers

How TV Teaches Stupidity

8 Changes I Experienced After Giving Up TV

Top 5 reasons NOT to watch TV this Fall

Spudding Out

Why TV Undermines Academics & Values

Newsweek is Bad for Kids

Bowling Alone - The Strange Disappearance of Civic America

TV Legitimizing Torture

The Assault on Reason

Twilight of the Books

Evolution Of Despair

Alzheimer's & TV

Preventing Obesity

Trained to Kill

Mind-altering media

Effects of TV - Before & After

A Powerful, Massive Protest: Diminish the Corporate Media's Power by Turning off Your TV for Good!

5 Ways Parents May Be Sabotaging Their Kids’ Health

Food companies manipulate kids and parents to create lifelong loyal customers

Is an overlooked source of childhood obesity staring us in the face?

Eight Reasons Why TV is Evil

"What most surprised me were the results I got from my study, which found that the more kids are exposed to consumer culture, they likelier they are to become depressed, suffer from anxiety, or experience low self-esteem. I would have thought it was the other way around that consumer culture was the symptom, not the cause."

TV Limiting Technology

List & Comparison of TV blockers

Token Timer

Power Cop

Play Limit

Power Plug Lock

Time Machine

Eye Timer

TV Be Gone

TV Be Gone - Article

Stanford Student Media Awareness to Reduce Television (SMART) curriculum is being used in California and Michigan. SMART in San Francisco, SMART in Canada